Search engine giant Google is fighting back against Microsoft and Yahoo! by launching its own email service.

With the three firms battling to establish themselves as the leading internet portal, Google has announced it is testing a free service called Gmail, which will let users store many more messages than rival email providers.

The move is a response to plans by both Microsoft and Yahoo! to launch their own search engines. Google hopes to compete by turning itself into a fully fledged portal offering a range of services.

Gmail will offer about a thousand megabytes of free storage to users, compared with 4Mb for Yahoo! Mail and 2Mb for Microsoft's Hotmail. Google claims its search technology will allow account holders to scan their email archives rapidly.

In addition, Google will automatically scan messages and use the information to send targeted advertising to users.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff